Oglebay Institute’s Parcel Players present a new stage adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel “Little Women.” The production is staged July 14-17 at Towngate Theatre in Wheeling.
“Little Women” follows the coming-of-age adventures of four sisters—Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March—as they grow up in Civil War-era New England and is loosely based on the author and her sisters. Although published more than 150 years ago, this immensely popular story needs little introduction and remains popular and relevant today.
“The central themes in the work are family at the center, following one’s path, remembering what is truly important and growing into one’s destiny despite societal expectations,” said director Erin Gallagher Bond. “Even in today’s world with so many issues of identity and self-worth, these characters allow us to see ourselves in them.”
For example, the character Jo, an outspoken tomboy with a passion for writing, is trying to make her way in the world while balancing within the constraints placed on nineteenth-century women.
“Her sense of adventure, her magnificent imagination, her commitment to family and her bravery at a time when women were not so ‘Jo-like’… She is a trailblazer and a real heroine,” Bond said.
Love and purpose are also universal themes highlighted throughout the story.
“Sometimes it is romantic love; sometimes it is sister/family love; sometimes it is the love of one’s passion in life—writing, serving others, being a parent, art, etc.,” explained Bond. “We all want to belong and matter; we all would like to have at least one dream come true; we all need to lean on those around us when tragedy strikes. And we all must get up the next day and try again.”
In addition to directing the production, Bond wrote the adaptation.
“I adore the original book and especially the 1994 movie. My adaptation is different because it includes Louisa May Alcott as the narrator. Alcott saw herself as Jo and this version really makes that clear,” she said.
Bond also added some comedic moments and tried to illuminate some of the smaller characters from the book to create more acting roles for students.
As director, she has high expectations for the young actors. “Since the Parcel Players are student-aged actors, it is important to me that they understand why certain things are being asked of them and how to truly develop themselves regarding the craft of acting…we are not playing dress-up or pretend. I want real relationships, truth behind the words, and sincere highs and lows reached as the action of the play dictates.”
The students are rising to the challenge. “It has been a delight to get to know them and watch the transformation from nervous or shy to blossoming into their roles and a joy to watch them grow to love the material and their characters.”
Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March are played by Destiny Robinson, Vivian Bloomfield, Clare Seibert, and Grace Thompson, respectively.
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Anna Contraguerro plays the role of Louisa. Grey Woods is Marmee. Joel Nau is Laurie. Father is played by Everett Poole.
Other cast members are Daily Ward, Drew Tarrant, Will Medovic, Keyuri Morgan, Samantha Jarrett, Josie Figaretti, Rylin Russel, Josphine Vosvich, Jana Schodzinski, Arabella Ross, Alex Fabrizio, Claire McFadden, Emma Thompson, Brooke Porter, Lila Roman and Shelby Gibson.
Bond hopes audiences will “enjoy a different take on a well-known story” and “be impressed with and proud of these young actors who have given up part of the summer to bring this play to the Towngate stage.”
Bond is a Wheeling-area native who recently relocated back to the area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in theatre performance from the University of Mississippi. She has worked as an actor, director and teacher in New York City, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Central Florida, where she started her own children’s theater.
Soon after returning to her hometown, she became involved with Towngate Theatre. She teaches musical theater classes and camps, has performed on the Towngate stage and is now directing a Parcel Players show.
“I am so happy to be part of the Towngate Theatre team,” she said.
Begun more than 50 years ago, Oglebay Institute’s Parcel Players summer theater program offers young people interested in theater a chance to act, direct, design sets, work with costumes, lighting and more while providing fine entertainment to the public. By fostering young talent, Parcel Players helps ensure the future of community theater in the Ohio Valley.
Bond said Little Women is a great show for all ages. “Perhaps a young person in the audience will get inspired to audition next summer or even write their own book about their own life experience, just like Louisa May Alcott did!”
“Little Women” will be staged at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 14-16. A 3 p.m. matinee takes place Sunday, July 17.
Tickets for the show are just $10. Purchase online at www.oionline.com, by calling 304-242-7700 or at the door, if available.
Part of the nonprofit Oglebay Institute, Towngate Theatre is located across the street from St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in the historic Centre Market district of Wheeling at 2118 Market Street. Towngate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.